Lincoln Academy junior Ethan Burns won a Gold Medal at the 2017 SkillsUSA Competition, held each March in Bangor. Burns, a Culinary Arts student at Bath Region Career and Technical Center (BRCTC) earned first place in the Courtesy Corps division of the statewide competition.
According to their website, “the SkillsUSA Maine Championships is the state-level competition for high school and college students enrolled in trade, technical, and skilled service instructional programs including allied health occupations.” This year’s competition took place on March 4 and 5 in Bangor.
The SkillsUSA theme for the 2016-17 year is: “Champions at Work: Preparing America’s Skilled Workforce.” At the 2017 state championships, around 650 students from around Maine competed in more than 70 categories of trade competitions, including firefighting, video production, electrical construction wiring, technical drafting, wedding cake decorating, welding, early childhood education, and many more. The gold medalists from each trade have the opportunity to represent the State of Maine at the SkillsUSA National Championships in Louisville, KY in June.
Julie Kenny is the Program Director at BRCTC. She explained, “the SkillsUSA Competition is a way that students can demonstrate their skills and meet with people in their chosen trade. Often the judges for these competitions are trade professionals, including vendors and business owners, and they are potential mentors and contacts for the students who compete.”
LA junior Ethan Burns is enrolled in the Culinary Arts program at BRCTC. He chose to compete in Courtesy Corps as a way of gaining experience in the SkillsUSA format. Courtesy Corps is the group of students that help with logistics at the competition itself, smoothing the way for the other events. Any student can enter the Courtesy Corps competition; they do not have to be enrolled in a particular trade. Burns describes his Courtesy Corps job as “running around to find things or fix things for various competitions, like boxes to store wedding cakes… [and] hanging a poster 10 feet up without a ladder or tape. We were helping to run the event itself, and at the same time it was a competition. It was a really good experience for leadership and problem-solving skills.”
What was the secret to his gold medal? “You get thrown right into what you are doing, and you have to be quick on your feet. I think the key was being able to take a leadership role and volunteer for things; to do everything that needs to be done smiling and not complaining.”
Burns’s gold medal earns him a ticket to SkillsUSA Nationals in Louisville Kentucky, but he won’t be attending the national conference this year, since his family is traveling to Peru for a long-planned mission trip. In Peru they will build houses and do other hands-on service work with their church, First Baptist Church in Waldoboro. “We have been planning this trip for years,” said Burns. “I can’t miss it now.”
He hopes to enter the SkillsUSA competition next year in the Baking and Pastry division. “Baking and Pastry is really competitive, and I didn’t have enough time to practice that specific kind of baking before the competition. Bakers have to make five desserts in four hours on a space the size of a school desk. My teacher suggested I enter in Courtesy Corps this year, and learn what the competition is like, that way I could be a contender for next year, when I am a senior.”
Burns credits his BRCTC teacher, Elizabeth Baldwin, as being “one of the best teachers I have ever had, anywhere. I love the variety of things we are doing in class: savory, sweet, hospitality, and how to not only be a good cook, but also how to run the business side of a restaurant.”
After his trip to Peru, Burns will attend pastry camp this summer, and return for a second year of Culinary Arts at BRCTC during his senior year of high school. After he graduates from Lincoln Academy in 2018, he plans to attend Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island to earn his Associate’s Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts. Eventually, Burns hopes to open a bakery somewhere in New England.
Where did Burns get his passion for pastry? “My parents and my grandmother always let me cook; they taught me the basics when I was little. I have just always loved baking. Kneading dough is the most relaxing thing on the planet.”